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How to Choose the Best CDL Driving School near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama truck carrying payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Athens AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Athens residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the ideal method to make certain you'll obtain the right training. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.

Which CDL Should You Get?

Athens Alabama truck driving down expressway

To operate commercial vehicles legally within Athens AL and throughout the United States, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short explanations for the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive with Class A licenses are:

  • Interstate or Intrastate Tractor Trailers
  • Trucks with Double or Triple Trailers
  • Tanker Trucks
  • Livestock Carriers
  • Class B and Class C Vehicles

Class B CDL. A Class B Commercial Drivers License is required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several of the vehicles that drivers may be qualified to operate with Class B licenses are:

  • Tractor Trailers
  • Dump Trucks
  • Cement Mixers
  • Large Buses
  • Class C Vehicles

Both Class A and Class B Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.

How to Research a Truck Driving School

Athens Alabama cement mixer truck with patriotic paint job

After you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Athens AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are several additional factors that you should research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Athens AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Athens AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Athens AL schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent trucking school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Athens AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Athens AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's important that the Athens AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Athens AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Athens AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About Athens CDL Training Schools

Enroll in the Right Athens CDL Training

Picking the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on money or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Athens Alabama.

 

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